- What Is a Fraud Alert?
- How Do I Place a Fraud Alert with Each of the Credit Bureaus?
- Types of Fraud Alerts
- How Long Do Fraud Alerts Last?
- How Do You Remove a Fraud Alert?
- What Other Options Are There to Protect Your Credit?
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft or are concerned about becoming a victim, you need to learn how to place a fraud alert with the three credit reporting bureaus. This will make it more difficult for anyone to apply for loans, credit cards, or government services in your name and stop the scammers in their tracks.
The number one type of consumer fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is identity theft. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly half of all Americans (47%) experienced some form of ID theft in 2020.
Consumers lost more than $3.3 billion due to fraud in 2020—more than double the $1.5 billion lost in 2019. Top targets for criminals included government benefits, credit card fraud, and taking out business or personal loans in someone else’s name.
What Is a Fraud Alert?
A fraud alert notifies the three credit reporting agencies that you are a victim of identity theft or fraud or believe you are at risk. This makes it more difficult for anyone to receive credit in your name, such as a new credit card or loan. Lenders or credit card companies can see the fraud alert if they check your credit, so they can take extra precautions to confirm you are the one placing the request and not a scammer.
How Do I Place a Fraud Alert with Each of the Credit Bureaus?
To place a fraud alert with any of the credit reporting agencies, online, by mail, or by phone.
- Equifax: 800-685-1111
- Experian: 888-397-2742
- TransUnion: 888-909-8872
You will need to provide information such as your:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Social Security number (SSN)
- Proof of identity (for extended fraud alerts), such as:
- Social Security card
- W2 or 1099 form
- Proof of your address (for extended fraud alerts), such as:
- Driver’s license or state ID card
- Rent agreement
- Utility bill
By law, if you place a fraud alert through any one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, it will notify the other two (i.e., you only need to place a fraud alert with one bureau).
When you place a fraud alert, you will need to indicate whether it is a first-time request or an extended fraud alert and if you are on active military duty. Depending on the type of fraud alert, lenders or creditors are encouraged or required to contact you for approval before issuing any credit. This allows you to stop someone from getting credit in your name.
Types of Fraud Alerts
There are three different types of fraud alerts you can choose from:
- Initial fraud alert
- Extended fraud alert
- Active-duty fraud alert
Initial Fraud Alert
If you are the victim of identity fraud or believe you are a victim, you can place an initial fraud alert for free at any of the credit bureaus. It will last for one year.
Extended Fraud Alert
If you are the victim of identity fraud, you should complete an FTC Identity Theft Report or a police report. With one of these reports, you can get an extended fraud alert for free. The extended fraud alert spans seven years. It will also stop credit card or insurance offers for five years.
If you are active-duty military, you can place an alert on your account for one year at no cost. This will remove you from receiving credit card or insurance offers for two years.
How Long Do Fraud Alerts Last?
- Initial fraud alert: 1 year.
- Extended fraud alert: 1 year.
- Active-duty military alert: 1 year.
You can remove your fraud alerts at any time or renew them once they end if you think you’re still vulnerable to identity theft.
How Do You Remove a Fraud Alert?
Fraud alerts expire automatically after 1 or 7 years, depending on the type of fraud alert you activated. If you want to remove a fraud alert before it expires, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus individually.
You can usually remove your fraud alert either:
- By phone
- By mail
You’ll need to provide documentation to prove your identity, such as your:
- Government-issued ID or driver’s license
- Utility bill
What Other Options Are There to Protect Your Credit?
Other options to protect your credit include:
- Placing a credit freeze
- Reviewing your credit reports regularly
- Locking your credit
You may also want to consider using a credit monitoring service to detect changes or warning signs of identity theft.
You can protect your credit by requesting a credit freeze. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. This prevents anyone from opening credit in your name, including you. Once a credit freeze is in place, access to your credit file will be restricted to:
- Accounts where you currently have credit
- Some government organizations, such as child support agencies
- Credit monitoring services that you use
A federal law passed in 2018 allows you to freeze or unfreeze your credit at the three major credit reporting bureaus for free. To freeze or unfreeze your credit, contact all three credit bureaus:
A credit freeze will last until you remove it. If you wish to unfreeze your credit for any reason—such as mortgage applications where a bank needs to pull your credit report—you will need to contact each of the three bureaus separately. You can also place a temporary unfreeze for a limited time.
Reviewing Credit Reports
Review your credit reports regularly to look for any suspicious activity or unauthorized changes. For example, if you notice an inquiry about opening a new line of credit that you didn’t initiate or a new credit card is issued without your permission, it’s time to place a fraud alert.
You can get a free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies once every 12 months.
A credit lock will block all access to your credit report. Each of the three credit bureaus offers credit locks for a fee, which allows you to lock and unlock your credit report at any time using an app.
While a credit lock is in place, it will block any access to your credit report, even if you are the one applying for a loan or credit card.
Credit Monitoring Services
Each of the credit bureaus offers credit monitoring services for a fee. Third-party companies also will monitor your credit and provide ID theft protection, including:
- Fast notifications via mobile app and email.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Personal case manager to help you recover from identity theft.
- Credit report alerts
- Social media monitoring
- ID restoration service
- Up to $1 million reimbursement for stolen money.
- Secure VPN for multiple devices.
- Includes password manager and virus protection.
Some services will offer a form of insurance, promising to reimburse you for any actual losses suffered from identity theft if you subscribe to their service.
Some companies offer free credit monitoring services, including:
Credit monitoring services will track your credit report and notify you of any changes. Typically, they will inform you if any of these changes occur:
- Hard inquiries, such as someone applying for credit in your name.
- Any new accounts opened.
- Name changes or change of address.
- Public record filings, including bankruptcy proceedings.
Depending on the service you select, you may also receive notifications for changes to your overall credit score, account balances, and payments on your credit cards and loans and monitoring the dark web for exposure of your email address, passwords, or social security numbers.
Credit monitoring services will alert you to any potential problems, but they will not file credit fraud alerts, freeze or lock your credit, or fix errors. For example, they can’t stop someone from applying for a credit card or opening new accounts in your name, but they can alert you to new activity so that you can act. They also will not be able to tell if someone files a fake tax return in your name, one of the top five frauds reported to the FTC.